Living in Los Angeles in 2020, one of the things that I am really aware of was that we live in a time where there is a lot of focus on individual wellness. There are whole sections of Los Angeles that are all juice bars, yoga, spinning classes, and Pilates.
I was like, “What are people doing? Do they have jobs? They are just drinking juice and running all day.” Oh, it is beautiful, I like both juice and running, I have nothing against it.
LA is very health-conscious…but I do not think it is just LA. I actually think the United States in general is more focused on health. There has been more consciousness around nutrition, physicality, and working out.
The Shift Towards Healthier Living
It was not like that even fifteen years ago. I mean, just as an example, I got sober seventeen years ago. At that time, there was a gym in the Tribute program where I got sober and only 2 or 3 people actually worked out in the gym. There are a hundred people in the Tribute program, but very few people went to the gym. It just was not that popular thing back then.
Same thing with eating. The food was fried chicken patties, rice, and beans. There was no vegan or special menus. But that rapidly changed.
The clients that we get now say, “When am I going to the gym? When will I work out?” Almost all of them ask for this. I’d say, 80% percent of clients are very health-conscious. Whether they are struggling with it or whether they have a good routine, they are really conscious of health and that is just the reflection of what is happening in the larger society.
Why are We Obsessed with Diet and Nutrition?
I sort of think back whenever I see something has changed at a social level I am like, “What is going on?”
I have talked about it in some previous videos. They kind of break down tradition and cultural containers and that we live in a time where everything is up for grabs. Meaning, we got to interpret things how we want and kind of do what we want. You cannot really decide how to be in the future based on how people were in the past because everything has changed so rapidly.
I think one of the responses that people had to the insecurity of our reality is to look at different places–new places–for salvation.
Is Wellness the New Salvation?
Salvation is a religious word. Generally, ‘salve’ means they kind of heal. Salvation also means to be safe in some sense. Religiously, the salve came from service, salvation came from giving yourself to God. It came from a certain way of living.
We no longer have the same kind of religious consciousness, at least not nearly as powerfully as we used to. We look for salvation in different areas. I think a lot of people look for salvation in the gym.
They think, “If I can just get my body to a certain place, if I could just eat the perfect food, if I can just get everything clean and pure inside, if I can become a pure vessel then I will be safe.”
They may not be consciously thinking that way but their behavior is speaking in that language.
On the one hand, I am a fan of being healthy, I am a post-modern man living in Los Angeles in 2020, I ride my bike, swim, wake up to green juice. I do all of this stuff. At the same time, I have this double consciousness where I am like this and I am just still going to die. Still, I got to be a good person, it is just this kind of obsession that we all live with. And there are worse obsessions to have.
What’s Missing in this Equation?
When it comes to how that interfaces with the recovery, I think we have got to be wise. I think we need to know that not all problems can be solved in the gym or what we eat. Exercise and diet can solve some problems and sometimes those things are connected to how we sleep, feel, and cope.
But there’s more. Some of the stuff we are working on in treatment is in the domains of morality. Some of the stuff we are working on is in the domain of character and integrity.
You can be a really fit person that eats really healthy and have no integrity. You can also be a really fit person who eats in a very healthy manner but has a tremendous amount of shame. Often, sometimes, I actually think that we are also ashamed about how selfish and narcissistic we are these days. That we are working doubly hard for salvation, to walk around guilty saying, “Something is not right here.” There is some kind of different way of being.
On the one hand, I am pro-health because I would be insane not to be pro-health. On the other hand, I think we have to be wise and make distinctions about what is actually happening with us and what is motivating what we are doing. And is this the actual way to meet the need, the existential need that we have as humans for salvation and to heal?
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